Canadian Serial Killer Couple Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo

This Predatory Pair Preyed on Young Women

An imprisoned woman
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Karla Homolka, one of Canada's most infamous female serial killers, was released from prison after serving a 12-year sentence for her involvement in drugging, raping, torturing, and killing young girls. The teenage victims included Homolka's younger sister, whom she offered to her boyfriend Paul Bernardo as a gift. 

Homolka was born May 4, 1970, to Dorothy and Karel Homolka in Port Credit, Ontario. She was the eldest child of three, and by all accounts, was well-adjusted, pretty, smart, and popular. She received ample love and attention from friends and family. Homolka developed a passion for animals, and after high school she started work at a veterinary clinic. Everything about her seemed normal. No one suspected her of hiding deeply disturbing desires.

Homolka and Bernardo Meet

At age 17, Homolka attended a pet convention in Toronto, where she met 23-year-old Paul Bernardo, an attractive, charismatic blonde woman with a persuasive personality. The pair engaged in sexual relations the day they met and soon discovered that they shared sadomasochistic inclinations. Paul quickly took on the role of enslaver and Homolka willingly became enslaved to him.

Over the next few years, the relationship intensified. The couple shared and encouraged one another's psychotic behavior. Bernardo began raping women with Homolka's approval. Bernardo's specialty was attacking women getting off buses, sexually assaulting them, and subjecting them to other humiliations. The police and media dubbed him "The Scarborough Rapist," after the Ontario town in which many of the sexual assaults were committed.

A Surrogate Virgin

One source of friction between the couple was Bernardo's incessant complaint that Homolka had not been a virgin when they met. Homolka was aware of Bernardo's attraction to her sexually inexperienced 15-year-old sister Tammy. Homolka and Bernardo came up with a plan to force Tammy into being a surrogate virgin for her older sister. To accomplish the plot, Homolka stole Halothane, an anesthetic, from the veterinary clinic where she worked.

On December 23, 1990, at a Christmas party at the Homolka family home, Bernardo and Homolka served Tammy alcoholic drinks spiked with halcyon. After the other family members had retired, the couple brought Tammy to the basement, where Homolka held a cloth soaked in Halothane over Tammy's mouth. Once Tammy was unconscious, the couple raped her. During the attack, Tammy began choking on her own vomit and ultimately died. Unfortunately, the drugs in Tammy's system went undetected and her death was ruled an accident.

Another Present for Bernardo

After Homolka and Bernardo moved in together, Bernardo began blaming Homolka for her sister's death, complaining that Tammy was no longer around for him to enjoy sexually. Homolka decided a young, pretty, virginal teenager named Jane, who idolized the attractive, older Homolka, would make a good replacement.

Homolka invited the unsuspecting teen out to dinner and, as she'd done with Tammy, spiked the girl's drinks. After inviting Jane to their home, Homolka administered Halothane and presented her to Bernardo. The couple brutally attacked the unconscious teen, videotaping the sexual assaults. The next day when the teenager awoke, she was sick and sore but had no idea of the violation she had endured. Unlike others, Jane managed to survive her ordeal with the couple.

Leslie Mahaffy

Bernardo's thirst to share his rapes with Homolka increased. On June 15, 1991, Bernardo kidnapped Leslie Mahaffy and brought her to their home. Bernardo and Homolka repeatedly raped Mahaffy over a period of several days, videotaping many of the brutal assaults. They eventually murdered Mahaffy, cut her body into pieces, encased the pieces in cement, and threw them into a lake. On June 29, some of Mahaffy's remains were found by a couple who were canoeing on the lake.

The Bernardo-Homolka Wedding

June 29, 1991, was also the day Bernardo and Homolka married one another in an elaborate wedding at a Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, church. Bernardo orchestrated the wedding plans, which included the couple riding in a white horse-drawn carriage, and Homolka dressed in an elaborate and very expensive white gown. The guests were served a lavish sit-down meal after the couple exchanged vows, which included, at Bernardo's insistence, Homolka promising to "love, honor, and obey" her new husband.

Kristen French

On April 16, 1992, the couple kidnapped 15-year-old Kristen French from a church parking lot after Homolka lured her to their car on the pretext of needing directions. The couple took French to their home, and for several days, they videotaped as they humiliated, tortured, and sexually abused the teen. French fought to survive but just before the couple left for Easter Sunday dinner with Homolka's family, they murdered her. French's body was found in a ditch in Burlington, Ontario, on April 30.

Closing in on the Scarborough Rapist

In January 1993, Homolka separated from Bernardo after months of constant physical abuse. His attacks became increasingly violent, resulting in Homolka being hospitalized. Homolka moved in with a friend of her sister, who was a police officer.

Evidence against the Scarborough Rapist was building. Witnesses had come forward and a composite drawing of the suspect was released. A work associate of Bernardo contacted the police, reporting that Bernardo matched the sketch. Police interviewed Bernardo and obtained a saliva swab, which eventually proved Bernardo to be the Scarborough Rapist.

The Ontario Green Ribbon Murder Task Force closed in on Bernardo and Homolka. Homolka was fingerprinted and questioned. The detectives were interested in a Mickey Mouse watch Homolka had that resembled the one French was wearing the night she disappeared. During questioning, Homolka learned that Bernardo had been identified as the Scarborough Rapist.

Realizing they were about to be caught, Homolka confessed to her uncle that Bernardo was a serial rapist and murderer. She obtained a lawyer and began negotiations for a plea bargain in exchange for her testimony against Bernardo. In mid-February, Bernardo was arrested and charged with the rapes and the murders of Mahaffy and French. During a search of the couple's home, police discovered Bernardo's diary, with written descriptions of each crime.

Controversial Plea Bargain

A plea bargain was discussed that would offer Homolka a 12-year sentence for her participation in the crimes in exchange for her testimony against Bernardo. According to the deal, Homolka would be eligible for parole after serving three years with good behavior. Homolka agreed to all terms and the deal was set. Later, after all the evidence was in, the plea bargain was referred to as one of the worst in Canadian history.

Homolka had portrayed herself as an abused wife forced into participating in Bernardo's crimes but when videotapes that Homolka and Bernardo had made were given to police by Bernardo's ex-lawyer, Homolka's true involvement came to light. Regardless of her apparent guilt, the deal was honored, and Homolka could not be retried for her crimes.

Paul Bernardo was convicted on all counts of rape and murder and received a life sentence on September 1, 1995. Rumors that Homolka's punishment was too lenient surfaced after pictures of her sunbathing and partying with other prisoners were published in Canadian newspapers. Tabloids reported that she was in a lesbian relationship with Lynda Verrouneau, a convicted bank robber. The National Parole Board denied Homolka's application for parole.

Homolka's Release

On July 4, 2005, Karla Homolka was released from prison in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec. Strict conditions for her release limited her movements and whom she could contact. Contact with Bernardo and the families of several murdered teens was expressly forbidden. "She is paralyzed with fear, completely panicked," said Christian Lachance, one of Homolka's attorneys. "When I saw her she was in a state of terror, almost in a trance. She cannot conceive of what her life will be like outside."


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Montaldo, Charles. "Canadian Serial Killer Couple Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, Montaldo, Charles. (2021, July 30). Canadian Serial Killer Couple Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Canadian Serial Killer Couple Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo." ThoughtCo. (accessed August 3, 2021).